On the Vézère with Chateaux and Locks
Another cool and overcast day with rain forecast at midday – but it will be our first day on the river – yea! Some went for a walk with Steve at 6:30 but I opted out this morning – spent some time in the lounge checking e-mail as that is the only place I can get wi-fi. I was not up for getting up at 6am! Breakfast was at 8am – typical European breakfast with cold cuts, cheese, cereal, yogurt, croissants, coffee and juice. We were ready to leave the inn at 9:15am.
After stowing dry bags and such in the van, Steve, Marlee, Ann and I took a path down to the village where we meet the canoes – about a 40 min walk. Beautiful stone walls, summer houses awaiting their occupants, wildflowers, rows of walnut trees just starting to leaf out, white horses who came running to greet us – all part of the experience. We gather paddles, life jackets and then follow the trailer with the canoes to the put-in spot.
From here we walked up to the town of Montignac where we grab coffee, or an éclair while the “Steves” do some errands. Finally around 11:30 we are finally on the Vézère River!
I am paddling with Steve in the stern – I am lucky! He is a wealth of information as we paddle the quiet river, sometimes with a few ripples, past verdant river banks, 10th century chateaux sitting high above us with ivy hanging down from the cliffs, waterfalls flowing rapidly, waddle tail birds, sandpipers, gray herons and 3 ancient 18th century locks that kept the river traffic running when there were dams on this river until the railways were built.
Steve (aka George – nicknamed by me as he called me Patty in the beginning of the trip!) prepared a delicious picnic lunch for us along the banks of the river – it was fun despite a light rain falling. Here we also explored the sleepy little village of Sergeac, so quaint and lovely with blooming gardens and cozy looking French homes made of limestone.
Another 30 minute paddle in the rain brought us back to our village of St. Leon where we took out and climbed in the van for another adventure.
We stopped at the Rouffignac Caves – only 10 million years old! These caves are all natural as they were found and contain so many interesting features. We take a little train through the corridors of the cave with a guide speaking in French and occasionally in English for the 5 of us. The further and further that we got into the caves, the more interesting it became. 20,000 years ago, bears inhabited these caves and made huge crater-like depressions in the floor rocks as they hibernated. They also made many scratchings on the rock walls as when they awoke, they needed to trim their nails!
Deeper into the cave it became apparent that man had also inhabited this area – but 14,000 years ago. There were many etchings on the walls of hippos, bison, woolly mammoth, big horn sheep, horses etc. In some places there was even some graffiti on the ceilings – these were done by “modern” visitors who were not aware of the prehistoric drawings further on in the caves. Some of the animal etchings were superimposed to make it seem like the animals were running and some were even pregnant. It was hard to imagine in some of the areas where men had to actually lie on their backs due to the low ceiling to make these etchings. It was quite mind boggling to see these ancient etchings of another civilization!
Back to our inn, time for a shower and then we are off to dinner at 7:20. We ate in town again – a 5 minute drive by van. My duck confit was absolutely delicious and we had laugh after laugh after laugh – a great group and great guides! Per Steve 2 or “George”, we are going through the group dynamics of “Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing” – he was a psychiatric nurse at one time and has done much psychiatric counseling – guess we all need that!! Ha! Ha! But whatever it is, the group is certainly working and we are having a great time and a lot of laughs!